At November’s St. Armands Circle Business Improvement District meeting, Chairman Marty Rappaport was upset about a records request involving BID directors’ personal email accounts.
On Monday, the Sarasota City Commission was upset, too — with the BID directors who conducted city business using their personal email accounts, which goes against a city resolution. The resolution, passed in 2011, requires all city business to be conducted on city-issued email accounts.
Last month, Rappaport said the group of BID directors was being targeted and said he would consider resignation if the group continued to be scrutinized — unfairly, in his opinion.
Michael Barfield, a paralegal who works with the group Citizens for Sunshine, sent an email to the BID directors in October requesting a series of emails. The query related to emails linked to the BID’s consideration of limiting the commercial space restaurants can occupy on the Circle and hiring another consultant to determine the proper retail mix there.
To comply with the records request, Rappaport had to turn over his personal computer, and the city had to pay for a forensic examiner to recover any emails that matched Barfield’s query and had been deleted from Rappaport’s personal account. Emails on other BID directors’ personal email accounts had not been deleted and could be forwarded to their city accounts.
City Attorney Robert Fournier said it was unknown at this point whether any deleted emails were unrecoverable; the forensic examiner’s report could cost around $1,500. If there are unrecoverable emails, the city could be open to legal action, Fournier said. A settlement was reached in a similar case involving Downtown Improvement District board members last year, with the city paying $8,300 to cover opposing attorney’s fees after certain emails could not be recovered.
On Monday, the commission voted to require all advisory board members to acknowledge the city resolution regarding city-issued email accounts before those boards could meet again. Commissioner Paul Caragiulo said he sympathized with Rappaport’s plight, but that other advisory board members should avoid his misstep so they don’t find themselves in a similar situation.
“You don’t want them to get into the situation where they have to relinquish stuff that a normal person would not want to relinquish,” Caragiulo said. “You just think the incentivization would be built in here.”
Rappaport declined to comment following Monday’s meeting.
“I respect all the work Marty’s done out there, but we can’t keep doing this,” Mayor Shannon Snyder said. “Everyone knows you can’t do this.”
St. Armands Circle Events moratorium in place for 2014 season
The Sarasota City Commission voted unanimously to put a moratorium on special events in St. Armands Circle Park during the height of the 2014 tourist season.
The moratorium was a response to a fear from landowners, merchants and residents on the Circle that special events cause added congestion and compete with local businesses during the busiest time of the year.
The moratorium is only in place for the upcoming year, between Feb. 1 and April 20, as the city works on crafting an ordinance that could permanently ban events during the busiest part of season. A classic antique car show, set for March 22, will still be held since it was approved before the moratorium was in place.
Sam Norton, the attorney for the St. Armands BID, said the Circle would struggle to maintain its reputation without controls in place to regulate the activity in the park. He said the money landowners and tenants invested into the Circle was spent with the understanding that those stakeholders would have some input on the events held in the park.
The city unanimously backed the resolution creating the moratorium. Mayor Shannon Snyder said it was important to preserve the success of Circle businesses.
“The area is so successful, and the traffic is so heavy during season, that we can’t put any more events in that area,” Snyder said.
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- When will the City Attorney stop rolling over for Michael Barfield. Its time to end the tyranny of the Sunshine Cowboy. His public record searches verge on harassment with no validation. One search on a local realtor who publicly spoke against him was submitted to a records search by his Polk County crony, seems retaliatory to me.
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